Diablo Views: Deer are from open space, men are from Mars, | February 1, 2008 | Danville Express | DanvilleSanRamon.com |


Danville Express

Column - February 1, 2008

Diablo Views: Deer are from open space, men are from Mars,

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Recently on a drizzly Saturday afternoon, I lay on the couch reading a book. It was Pete Dexter's "Paper Trails," a collection of columns and articles he's written over the years, some while working for the Sacramento Bee and the Philadelphia Inquirer. He has a light, albeit offbeat, approach to his family but his anecdotes about the two cities he covered are often violent and unsettling. The full name of the book is "Paper Trails: True Stories of Confusion, Mindless Violence, and Forbidden Desires, a Surprising Number of Which Are Not about Marriage." Dexter is the author of "Paris Trout," which won the National Book Award in 1988.

Anyway I was in the family room, relaxing and reading, when suddenly I felt a presence. I looked away from the book and out the sliding glass doors, and there in the back yard was a herd of deer. Well, four. Is that enough to be a herd? They were standing perfectly still and looked like statues but I was sure I would have noticed before that moment if my husband had bought deer statues for the yard. They were youngish, and they had stopped munching on the grass and the bushes and were all standing at alert, facing toward the side of the house where slight noises were coming from the neighborhood - a car door slamming, children's voices. I noticed a twitching of the large ears here and there. Otherwise nothing. If I'd been closer I may have detected thumping hearts.

"They heard a noise," I thought. "They've all decided to wait and see if the noise will become a threatening presence, in which case they will run. If they don't hear it again, they'll resume snacking on my yard."

But then I had another thought: How could I possibly know what goes on in a deer's head? What it feels like to live inside their bodies, to be a deer? It must be a completely different experience to have a tough hide, to forage in the wilds (and suburban back yards) for sustenance, to sleep in whatever sheltered spot one can find. Why, I could no more read their thoughts than I could read, well, my husband's.

Men. Now there's an interesting species. If I saw my husband standing alertly in the back yard, would I be able to read his thoughts? He could be listening to something, like the haunting sounds of BART that carry through to us under the right conditions. Or his mind might actually be miles away - thinking about a football game, or business, or dinner, or, well, other subjects we will not talk about in this newspaper.

One thing I have noticed about men is that although individually they may mature as they grow older, when in a group they are still the same guys they were in high school.

"Why did you play three sets of tennis, dear, when you have a bad knee and were exhausted after two?"

"Well, the guys wanted me to."

Aha! Good reasoning. Are these the same "guys" he wanted to impress so badly at his senior prom with his girlfriend's long blond hair that he's still upset she wore it up in a beehive? (To add to his humiliation she wore high heels that, along with the beehive, made her taller than he was - no wonder he still hasn't gotten over it.)

Anyway, back to Pete Dexter. He says in the book's preface that he and his editor Rob Fleder gathered all these old writings together with the idea of publishing them in book form and mulled over the project for several years. Finally Fleder suggested that perhaps they should put them into some sort of logical or chronological order, and note where they first appeared. But when they realized how much work this would be, they decided it'd be easier to come up with an excuse for them being presented arbitrarily. So Dexter rationalized that the randomness gives the columns a timeless quality. Now if this were my book, I probably would have done the painstaking research to correctly label where each article first appeared and when. But then, Dexter and Fleder are men. And this random approach, I'll admit, works quite well.

-Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.